Seasonal and interannual variability of physical and biological dynamics at the shelfbreak front of the Middle Atlantic Bight: nutrient supply mechanisms
1Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, USA
2Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Canada
3Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA
4Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA
Abstract. A high-resolution, 3-dimensional coupled biophysical model is used to simulate ocean circulation and ecosystem variations at the shelfbreak front of the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB). Favorable comparisons between satellite observations and model hindcast solutions from January 2004 to November 2007 indicate the model has intrinsic skills in resolving fundamental physical and biological dynamics at the MAB shelfbreak. Seasonal and interannual variability of ocean physical and biological states and their driving mechanisms are further analyzed. The domain-wide upper water column nutrient content is found to peak in late winter-early spring. Phytoplankton spring bloom starts 1–2 months later, followed by zooplankton bloom in early summer. Our analysis shows the variability of shelfbreak nutrient supply is controlled by local mixing that deepens the mixed layer and injects deep ocean nutrients into the upper water column and alongshore nutrient transport by the shelfbreak jet and associated currents. Nutrient vertical advection associated with the shelfbreak bottom boundary layer convergence is another significant contributor. Spring mean nutrient budget diagnostics along the Nantucket transect are compared between nutrient rich 2004 and nutrient poor 2007. Physical advection and diffusion play the major role in determining strong interannual variations in shelfbreak nutrient content. The biological (source minus sink) term is very similar between these two years.